If you’ve spent any time over the past six months browsing through Jewish Tik Tok or Instagram, you’ve likely come across some of the now notorious Yiddish covers that New York’s Mendel Goldman’s put out. From Lizzo to Miley to Harry Styles, Goldman’s found ways to breathe new life (and a little umph) into some of our favorite pop songs.
Though he speaks English, Yiddish and Hebrew fluently, music, Goldman says, has always been his first language. “I fell in love with music when I was six years old and heard my sister playing piano,” he says. “I was immediately jealous and wanted to try it out.” By the age of seven, he was writing his own songs and by the age of eight or nine, he was performing songs at the local tennis court for the Orthodox community he grew up with. By 10, he joined the now famous Miami Boys Choir and as an adult, has been recording and performing his own music, and loving every second of it.
Menschions: You’ve had quite a month! Your reels are everywhere and we love watching what you come up with. How did it all happen?
MG: I love making music and I decided to try something new out, so I did a Lizzo cover in Yiddish and within a few days, I went from like 1,700 followers to more than 19,000. It was so crazy!
Menschions: That’s pretty amazing! What made you pick Lizzo?
MG: It actually came from a comment someone posted on a previous skit I did. I was dressed as a rabbi and I captioned it to say, “when the rabbi comes in and sounds nothing like you expect.” From there, someone commented to say, “when the rabbi said he was going to do something different today I thought he was going to start rapping Lizzo in Yiddish,” and I just kind of ran with it from there! I love Lizzo! I think she’s amazing and really true to herself. She also plays with a lot of old school beats, similar to QUEEN, which make it so fun to experiment with. I heard the bridge to “About Damn Time” and thought it would sound great in Yiddish.
Menschions: And what was the reaction?
MG: It was crazy. I got DMs from so many people including a few actresses I follow, and I couldn’t believe it! It was a really exciting moment so as soon as it happened, I felt like I had to really take advantage of it. I came on Instagram and kind of took the time to introduce myself and my music.
Menschions: Do you usually sing in Yiddish?
MG: Actually, no! I usually sing in English because it’s more accessible. English is spoken around the world and somehow even in countries where they don’t fully understand it, the music still resonates.
Menschions: When it comes to the Yiddish language, some people worry about its survival and some people think there will be a revival of it. What do you think about the future of the Yiddish language?
MG: I don’t think it will ever die. There are so many areas even in here Brooklyn where Yiddish is their first language. It’s a source of a lot of pride for many people. It’s very important to keep this alive, this is the connection to our history … to our ancestors in Polish, Germany and Russia. You could’ve been from any country and you spoke Yiddish. It’s important to honor this language and commemorate everything our ancestors sacrificed for us so that we could have the lives we have. I’m so proud of our perseverance … of what we’ve endured as a people. It’s important to remember where we come from. If we forge where you come from, we lose who we are. Bad things happen to the Jewish people when the Jewish people forget who we are!
Menschions: Did you grow up speaking Yiddish?
MG: My fourth grade teacher spoke to us in English on the first day but then we switched to Yiddish on Day 2! The whole class freaked out but I was okay because I spoke in Yiddish with my grandfather. It was a very special bond we had.
Menschions: Aside from your Yiddish covers, you have some pretty introspective songs you’ve released. Tell me about your song, “Bad For Me.”
MG: “Bad for Me” is based on a discourse, actually. In the community, you have Rebbes, who are essentially chief rabbis in the Hassidic community. I’m part of Chabad Lubavitch, we’re the ones in the streets asking if you’ve put on tefillin today. Those are my boys! The Rebbe here gives a discourse, in Hebrew it’s called a Mamar, and it’s all about overcoming folly and the desires that aren’t good for you. My father always used to talk to me about this and he’d say, “Why did God make carrots healthy if we didn’t want to eat them … why did God not instill in us a desire to work out?” God gave us free will … we don’t want to be active, we don’t want to be healthy … we must teach ourselves. The song questions this overall human concept of why it could be difficult to simply do good things.
Menschions: Is there any way out of it?
MG: I think its something we will always contend with. It’s important to remember that we have free will and we have a choice on all of our actions. It’s about accountability. When I was a kid, someone taught me, if anything goes wrong, I’m the one to blame… and I took this lesson into my life as an adult.
Menschions: Can you elaborate on that?
MG: People want to blame the government for their problems, or their teachers or their parents. I realize this but I realize at the same time … that there’s a choice. I can take time and blame everyone around me or I can stop, take a look at myself and say, “No, I am the problem … what did I do to get here and what steps can I take to fix this problem you have to look at yourself and realize that.
Menschions: That’s very Taylor Swift of you.
MG: Well, I think Taylor may be a Rebbe.
Menschions: Should I check with her team real quick?
MG: If she’s ever interested, we’d welcome her with open arms.
Menschions: As we all would! Tell us, where can we find your music?
MG: My originals are on Tidal, Apple Music, Amazon Music, Spotify and even a few more that I don’t really know about. Just search Mendel Goldman.
Menschions: Thank you for your time today … and before you leave, can we get a few more Yiddish covers out of you?
MG: Let’s do it! How about Queen?
Menschions: Yes, Queen! Always.